Sports

Chalk it up for Jayhawks

SAN ANTONIO -- The game was over, Memphis had won on a Monday, freshman Derrick Rose was going to be the star and Coach John Calipari was finally going to get his due.

Cue the confetti and the CBS theme music.

But then it wasn't over.

In what will be remembered in Kansas lore as Mario's moon shot, Jayhawks junior guard Mario Chalmers landed a three-point basket with 2.1 seconds left to send a great NCAA championship game into overtime.

"I knew it was going in when it left my hand," he said.

Chalmers was charmed.

Kansas in extra time used the momentum of Chalmers' booster shot to beat Memphis, 75-68, at the Alamodome.

"Ten seconds to go, we're thinking we're national champs and then a kid makes a shot and all of a sudden, we're not," Calipari said.

Kansas won its third national championship, its first in 20 years, and denied Memphis its first.

Afterward, Kansas players ran in all delirious directions into the stands to cry, embrace loved ones and otherwise bask in the glow of the impossible.

Kansas will never forget this night and Memphis won't get over it.

The Tigers had a nine-point lead with 2:12 left after two Robert Dozier free throws.

The score wouldn't stay 60-51 for long, though, in a finish that went back and forth.

You had to follow the bouncing ball:

Kansas: Sherron Collins stole an inbounds pass and made a three-pointer to cut the lead to four.

Memphis: Chris Douglas-Roberts made two free throws to push the lead back to six.

Kansas: Chalmers made two free throws to cut it back to four, and Darrell Arthur rolled in a basket with a minute left to trim the lead to 62-60.

Memphis: Douglas-Roberts missed a jumper with 27 seconds left, and Collins grabbed the rebound and drove straight toward the Memphis end, only to turn it over going up for a shot.

Memphis: Douglas-Roberts was fouled with 16 seconds left, but he missed both free throws. Dozier, though, grabbed the offensive rebound and gave it to Rose, who was fouled with 10 seconds left.

Two free throws and Memphis all but clinches, but Rose made only one of two.

Free throws had been the Tigers' regular-season bane as they shot less than 60%, but they made 20 of 23 attempts in Saturday's semifinal win over UCLA.

Down by three, the clocked ticked, ticked, ticked as Collins dribbled down court.

Why didn't Memphis foul?

Calipari said they tried.

Collins said, "I think I got fouled, but I ain't complaining."

He gave the ball to Chalmers, who was moving to his left when he let loose his tying three-pointer.

Bill Self, his coach, said he was the right Kansas guy at the right Kansas time.

"He has no memory," Self said of Chalmers' mental toughness. "The next thing that happens is the only thing he's thinking about."

Memphis was still in shock when the overtime started, and it didn't help that starting forward Joey Dorsey had fouled out late in regulation.

Kansas scored the first three baskets for a 69-63 lead.

Memphis wasn't quite done yet, though, cutting the lead to three with 56 seconds left on a three by Douglas-Roberts.

But Chalmers -- who else? -- made two clutch free throws with 45 seconds left and Collins added the finishing touches with two more free throws with 18 seconds left.

For Kansas, it was hard to envision a more exhilarating joy. Roy Williams spent 15 years at Kansas and never won a title. Self won in his fifth season.

"I don't know if a coach really deserves what happened to me tonight," Self said.

The Jayhawks looked like cooked birds in the second half when Memphis' Rose, who scored only three first-half points, took over the game, scoring 12 of his team's 14 points in one run.

Kansas overcame a nine-point lead in 132 seconds.

It won its first national title since the Danny Manning-led team of 1988. Twenty years without a title in Kansas is a long time.

For Memphis, it was hard to imagine a more agonizing defeat. A couple of made free throws down the stretch would have made them champions.

"I take full responsibility," Calipari said. ". . . I'm proud of them. I'm disappointed in myself."

Had Chalmers missed in regulation, Memphis would have finished 39-1 and been mentioned as one of the elite teams in NCAA history.

But it didn't happen that way.

A couple of free throws didn't go down.

But Chalmers' shot did.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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